Research into the development of a local aircraft to serve regional markets in Africa and a pilotless helicopter will be taken another step further when post graduate engineering students present their work at a conference hosted by Denel Aviation.
The South African Regional Aircraft (SARA) project is spearheaded by Denel Aviation together with Denel Aerostructures and involves young engineers from Denel Aviation as well as post-graduate students from the North West University, Rhodes University, and the University of Pretoria. The research project is co-funded by Denel Aviation and the Department of Trade and Industrys Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP).
Research is conducted into two areas:
A locally designed and manufactured regional aircraft with short take-off and landing capabilities. The SARA will be able to operate from smaller regional airfields rather than established airports and meet future air travel requirements in a rapidly growing African market.
A rotary wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology demonstrator. These pilotless small helicopters will be able to stay up in the air for up to six hours, reach cruising speed of 200km/h and carry loads of 160kg. It can be used for a number of tasks, including surveillance, border patrol, geological survey and medical transport services.
Dr Renier van Rooyen, Chief Design Engineer at Denel Aviation says business case studies for both projects were done and potential niche markets identified. A technology demonstrator for the rotary wing UAV is underway and a first test flight is expected by the end of 2016.
Future development and decisions on production will be taken based on market response, the demand for these aircraft and the availability of funding.
The researchers involved in the project will report on progress and report their findings to academics from the universities and senior executives of Denel on 26 March.
Denel Aviation is the design authority and will be the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) if the project receives the green light while Denel Aerostructures will be responsible for the aerostructure design and manufacture of both aircraft.